Tag Archives: Satan

James 5:16
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Dear God, it can be very difficult to confess my sins to someone else. What if they think less of me? How can I face that shame?

I have a guy that I talk to nearly every week. He has struggles, and I have them too. I think he is better about telling me about his failures than I am mine. In fact, I know he is. Why is that? What am I afraid of? I know this friend will still love me. I know he won’t think less of me. I think it just comes down to shame.

I heard someone say at a retreat a few months ago that guilt seeks forgiveness, but shame hides. I can feel myself hiding part of my life even though I know that Satan’s power is in the secret. I know that it gives him a foothold in my life. I am a fool.

Father, help me to embrace repentance and vulnerability. Help me to be your child. Help me to love you and turn loose of myself just a little more.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on May 6, 2019 in James


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The Temptation of Christ — Matthew 4:1-4

This image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image was created by Matthew L. Clark.

Matthew 4:1-4
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
‘People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


Dear God, I might or might not have noticed this before, but this morning what strikes me about this passage is the fact that the Spirit appears to Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism, and then it is the Spirit that leads him into the wilderness to be tempted. You didn’t shield him from temptation. You actually led him into it so that he could learn and be stronger.

That’s one of the hardest things to understand as a parent. Where is the line between protecting our child and getting in the way of the lessons they need to learn for later in life? And it changes with every age. There are the early stages when they reach for an electrical outlet and we physically prevent it because they cannot understand. Then there is the phase where we warn them with words, but sometimes they disobey us and get hurt anyway. And then there are the times when they are adults that we offer them our love, but we also offer them tough love and truth (not that tough love isn’t appropriate during the earlier parts as well).

In the spirit of looking at the art that Ned Bustard put with these Bible stories in Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups, I want to spend some time with the artist who did a piece about this picture and see what he/she noticed that I might have missed or interpreted differently. In this case, Matthew L. Clark did this piece called “Temptation.”

So what do I notice in this piece?

  • Jesus looks pretty haggard. I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought about what he would look like after being in the wilderness for 40 days with no food, but I suppose he wouldn’t have looked like the pretty pictures of him I saw in Sunday school. This is a good point by the artist.
  • This image focuses only on the first temptation. The first words at the top are not explicitly said by Satan, but they carry that feeling of self pity that we all get from time to time. Self pity is the root of a lot of sin. “I have the right.” “I deserve better.” “How dare you?!?” In this case, Clark is suggesting that part of Jesus’ temptation is the idea that he might be questioning what all of this is for. “Why did the Spirit lead me out here for 40 days to do this?” “Is this suffering necessary?”
  • The words “Stones” and “Bread” set the stage for the temptation Clark is addressing. It’s hunger, but he is also suggesting in the first one that it’s also about doubting you and doubting the Spirit.
  • I couldn’t tell what the image is at the top of the top speech bubble. In the description, it is apparently batwings. It is to indicate that this is not scripture. Clark says he took the line from Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • I wondered what Satan is wearing in the picture. Is he a king? Again, thankfully, Clark gives us an explanation. He has Satan appearing to tempt Jesus as a Jewish holy man. Someone whom he should trust. How many times have I been led astray by those I trusted? How many times have I led others astray who trusted me

Finally, here is what Clark has to say about his piece:

I think an important thing not to overlook here is the fact that this was a real temptation. Jesus had to really be tempted if this episode was to have any significant meaning. As such, I tried to show him emaciated and weak. At least physically weak. I have no idea if forty days of fasting leaves one spiritually weakened or strengthened. But I assume it would be immediately weakening or Satan would not have chosen that time to act.”

Father, I will face temptations today. Help me to recognize them when they come. Help me to renounce self pity and embrace the work you have given me to do today. Guide my heart into the channel of your will for me regardless of its benefits or costs to me. And help me to know how to parent my grown children. Help me to not do anything that will get in the way of what you are trying to do in their lives. Love them richly. Love my wife as well and help me to know how you need me to love her. Again, do all of this for your glory, your plan, and so that your will and kingdom will come to earth.

In Jesus’ name I pray,




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The 6 Stages of Faith – Learning from Job

  1. Intuitive – Projective Faith: Associated with the child’s faith, based upon fantasy and imagination.
  2. Mythical-Literal Faith: The family faith of the early school years, which is sustained by moral rules and either/or thinking.
  3. Synthetic-Conventional Faith: Adolescent phase that conforms to the tradition of the community and creates the “kind” of person of faith it models or rejects.
  4. Individuative-Reflective Faith: The faith of the young adult who is capable of critical thinking, independent reflection, and comparative reasoning.
  5. Conjunctive Faith: A mid-life and old-age faith that integrates self-identity with a comprehensive world view to see the order, coherence, and meaning of life in order to serve and be served.
  6. Universalizing Faith: The rare faith of the world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life.

(source: James W. Fowler, The Stages of Faith (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), chap. 14.)

Dear God, some time back, I was trying to journal through the book of Job and I was lost. So many people were talking, and some of them seemed to be making good sense. Then I’d read on a little and see that they were wrong. I finally gave up, but it became a bit of a white whale for me. I was going through a personal struggle unlike anything I had known before, and I wanted to learn was you had to teach me through Job’s story.

I remembered that I have a complete set of biblical commentaries that was done by Word back in the 80s. The Old Testament commentaries are called Mastering the Old Testament, and Lloyd Ogilvie was the general editor for all of them (he is a Presbyterian pastor who was chaplain for the U.S. Senate at one point). The commentary for Job was written by David L. McKenna (there’s a bio of him on the Asbury Theological Seminary website here), who was president of Asbury Theological Seminary at the time he wrote it. I think the most useful part of the commentary for me was the Introduction. That’s where I found a reference that McKenna made to Fowler’s Six Stages of Faith. I wrote them down in my notes, and they stuck with me.

So now I’m at a point where I’m going to be preaching about this tomorrow and I want to make sure that 1.) I’m getting this theologically correct 2.) I am giving these people (and myself) the truth you want us to know.

One of the big dangers for tomorrow is to try to answer the why question. Why did God take away my loved one? Why does God allow bad things to happen? I’m not even totally sure that Job gets at the whole truth of this. I don’t think the author was a witness to God and Satan conversing so I don’t want to push the idea one way or another that God set Satan loose on Job. But he or she did want to communicate the fallacy that our blaming God for the bad things that happen is foolishness. As Rich Mullins once said, “We all have it better than we deserve.”

When you look at Job, chapter 38 just scares the heck out of me. It’s when all of my theology and philosophy burns up and I am face to face with you, hearing your words for me. It is easy to sit here and pontificate in my own wisdom and try to lift up my complaints about my life, but to hear you say to me, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?…” It goes on and on for four chapters.

Job has a short reply in chapter 40, but his real reply is in chapter 42: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Satan’s thesis in Job 1 is, God, “stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job, in his limited knowledge of you is ultimately driven to that place of bitterness and desperation, but then he comes face with you in chapters 38-42 and he realizes just how small and foolish he is. His faith goes to the ultimate level of seeing a world bigger than himself and deciding that your role for him is to simply serve in whatever way you call him to serve, without complaint.

Father, I want to ask you to teach me this lesson, but I’m afraid to. I know you love me, but the truth is, I’m afraid of you. If a prophet knocked on my door right now (a real, verifiable prophet), I would be terrified of what you might have to tell me. I’m sorry for how I’ve complained. I’m sorry for how I’ve doubted. I’m sorry for my selfishness and my lethargy. Help me to see what you see and know what you want me to know.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on October 27, 2018 in Job


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Job 1:1,6-12

Job 1:1,6-12 NIV
[1] In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. [6] One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. [7] The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” [8] Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” [9] “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. [10] “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. [11] But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” [12] The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Dear God, I don’t want to get into whether or not this is a literal story of what happened to someone or a fairytale, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the author’s thesis for this book—if you allow bad things into our lives, we will walk away and give up on you. The idea is that we don’t get it. In the story, Satan knows that we are small minded. Even some of our national theological leaders make stupid statements about you sending punishments to entire cities with hurricanes and wildfires because they are in sin. Now, they might be able to convince me that some of these areas might have lost a hedge of protection from you with their disobedience, but I also know that there were plenty of faithful people in those situations who suffered. We can be so myopic!

This Sunday, I’m going to be talking about the faith that grows beyond this carrot and stick view of you. We are not donkeys. We are sheep. Our lives are not our own any more than a lamb’s is. We are here for your worship and to be your tangible source of love on earth.

Father, help me to articulate all of the thoughts that you are putting on my heart this week. Help me to have just the right message for this weekend. In an election season, help me to also speak your peace to this group. Help us to all do away with fear and embrace you and your individual call on our lives.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Job


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Emails to God – Keeping Yourself Pure (Ephesians 5:1-20)

5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear God, something is happening with the Spirit within my house. Frankly, over the last several months (years?) I have felt like we have been under a very specific spiritual attack. It has surprised me. Probably what has surprised me the most is how I have seen the different ways that I was hurting my family that I didn’t realize. I was (and, I guess, am—although it is apparently getting better) critical and difficult to be around. My loud-ish personality and the popularity that comes with my job made it difficult for my family to be with me in public. And at home I think they never felt like they could do it right enough for me. It was hard for me to see at first, and now that I can see it, it has been hard for me to change. But I think I have done it slowly, but surely.

Now, I have started to feel a bit of a shift. Is it you moving? Is it something I can believe in? I am seeing my children responding to me a little differently. As if the change in me that I have been praying about over the last months and years is finally starting to take hold and they are starting to believe in it. My wife, being more mature, has allowed herself to believe in the change in me a little earlier, but the kids finally seem to be coming around.

One thing I am finding, however, is that I will need to be extra careful to guard my heart. I can see the positives that are happening and I know that Satan will attach in other areas. From where will his attacks come? Am I girded with your armor? Am I ready to follow verse 15 here, and live not as unwise but as wise?

Father, help me to be pure. Help me to have pure motives, thoughts, and deeds. And by pure, I mean help me to have your heart. I am sorry for the pain I unintentionally caused. I can only ask now that you will use it for your good in my life and my family’s life. Let your presence reign and help us to all submit ourselves to your authority and Spirit.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Miscellaneous


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Emails to God – Humoring Satan (Matthew 4:1-11)

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Dear God, I find it interesting that Jesus played along with Satan and humored him so much during this interchange. First, Satan came to him and tempted him with food. That makes sense. I can see how that would happen. But why did Jesus go with him to the holy city (presumably Jerusalem) and get on top of the temple? Why did Jesus go with him to a very high mountain? Why allow himself to be tempted in that way? Why didn’t he tell Satan to leave immediately?

There are a lot of question marks in that last paragraph. I guess I am just trying to figure out how much I am supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. My theory (and that is all that it is—a theory) is that Jesus knew that part of his earthly existence was to be tempted like we are tempted and to withstand those temptations. He knows that we are faced with temptations all of the time. He knows that we find ourselves in compromising situations, and I figure he wanted to ensure that we knew that he experienced big temptations and gave us an example of resisting them.

One of the struggles I have as a parent is knowing where to draw the line between not letting my children be exposed to temptation and then allowing them to be exposed to temptation. If I totally block off their exposure to temptation and put them in a box then they will not know 1.) how to deal with it as an adult, 2.) what it is to choose you and your glory over evil, and 3.) the wonder and beauty of repentance.

Father, guide me. Guide me in my own rejection of sin and help me to parent my children through their own decisions regarding sin. Life is hard. Life is complicated. Help me to glorify you in this life so that others might be drawn to you.

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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Matthew


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